What has tipped my hand at last has been the appearance, at Megan McArdle’s blog site, of a really excellent guest post by entrepreneur and investor Jim Manzi. Mr. Manzi’s capitalist credentials are indisputable, so I was both impressed and heartened to read the words he excerpted there from his newly published book:
Many entrepreneurs hold the opinion that “I did it all on my own,” which may be well adapted to leadership success in certain situations, but it is objectively myopic. The entrepreneur relies on an ecosystem of venture capitalists, risk-taking purchasers, and so on. This ecosystem itself rests on a deeper foundation of collective, government-led enterprise. The delivery of our software, for example, depended on the existence of the Internet, which is the product of a series of government-sponsored R&D efforts, in combination with subsequent massive private commercial development. Government funding has been essential to much of the university science that entrepreneurs have exploited. Honest courts and police are required for functioning capital markets and protection of assets; physical infrastructure is required for the roads and running water without which we would not spend much time thinking about artificial intelligence software. At the absolute foundation, national armed forces protect the whole system against external aggression. All of our exciting technical and economic innovations ultimately require men to stand watch all night looking through Starlight scopes mounted on assault rifles—and die if necessary—to protect our commercial, law-bound society. Would you do this to protect a billionaire hedge-fund manager who sees his country as nothing more than lines on a map?
Add to this, in my world, the foundational infrastructure of global financial institutions and markets, the extraordinarily complex socioeconomic web of laws, regulations, and conventions which protect, foster, and enable investment and speculation, and the enormously capable and complex bureacratic platforms from which most traders, investment bankers, and investors operate, and you begin to appreciate that these self-proclaimed supermen resemble Prometheus wresting fire from Mount Olympus for the benefit of mankind far less than spoiled rich kids born on third base who grow up convinced they hit a triple. (Not to mention that most of these clowns got rich on a flying trapeze constructed over a free safety net composed of the taxes, retirement savings, and future debt repayment powers of tens of millions of their otherwise completely uncompensated and unrewarded fellow citizens.)